The Arrival of Shared Parental Leave

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From this month, parents who are expecting a baby or adopting a cs300_SPL_recolour_high_res1_768x566hild will be able to share parental leave. How do the UK’s new rules on parental leave work?

In October 2014 we wrote a blog telling our clients and followers how this would affect their business. Now that the new rules have been introduced, we would like to remind everyone of what is involved:

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) has arrived.

Shared Parental Leave is a new right that came into force on 1st December 2014 that would affect people who are going to have a baby, which is born on or after the 5th April 2015. It will now enable eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed.

This could mean that the mother or adopter shares some of the leave with her partner, perhaps returning to work for part of the time and then resuming leave at a later date.

The options to use the new Shared Parental Leave rights will apply for parents who meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Going to have a baby which is due to be born on or after 5 April 2015
  • Adopting a child or children whose are placed for adoption on or after this date

Shared Parental Leave is designed to give parents more flexibility in sharing the care of their child in the first year following birth or adoption. Parents will also be able to share a pot of leave. They can decide to be off work at the same time and/or taking it in turns to have periods of leave to look after the child.

“Managing and administering SPL may be hard for businesses with a small headcount, particularly where a husband and wife are working together,” says Matthew of Consensus HR. “You will need to ensure that the correct procedures are put in place so as to minimise any disruption to the business”.

Five key points of Shared Parental Leave:

  1. Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance
  1. If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her Maternity Leave early and with her partner or the child’s father, will be able to opt for SPL instead of Maternity Leave.       If they both meet the qualifying requirements, they will need to decide how they divide their total SPL and pay entitlement between them.
  2. Paid Paternity Leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers and mothers or adopter’s partners. This must be used in a single block of leave and taken within 56 days of the birth.
  3. Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to Shared Parental Leave and pay
  4. Intended parents in surrogacy who meet certain criteria will be eligible for statutory adoption leave and pay and Shared Parental Leave and Pay

Who is eligible for SPL?

discontinuous-shared-parental-leave-uk-2015To qualify for Shared Parental Leave and pay, a mother must share the main responsibility for caring for the child with the child’s father or her partner. In addition, she must be entitled to:

  • Maternity or adoption leave, or
  • Statutory maternity or adoption pay, or
  • Maternity allowance

In addition, they will be required to follow a two-step process to establish eligibility.

When can SPL be taken?

Shared Parental Leave may be taken at any time within set dates. This period of time begins on the date the child is born (or date of the placement). It ends 52 weeks after that date. Leave must be taken in complete weeks. An employer cannot refuse leave requested as a continuous period, however leave in a discontinuous period can be refused. The mother must take a minimum of two weeks’ leave after the birth of the child or four weeks if they work in a factory. It will be for the mother or adopter to continue on Maternity Leave or opt to take Shared Parental Leave.

Consensus HR Comment:

“We updated our clients about the new SPL rules back in October 2014. We also took the opportunity to highlight that when a pregnancy or parental leave request is announced, a business should celebrate with the employee. It’s important to generate good morale,” says Matthew. “Employees feels supported as the business fully understands their wish to share time with their children.”

“From the business’ perspective, solutions to cover the absent parent’s leave periods should be sought immediately. This can involve rearrangement of duties or recruiting a temporary employee, for example.”

“I am waiting to see how this affects sexual equality of workers in the workplace” adds Matthew. “It will be up to the parents to decide who takes the time off. The pure capability of the person – regardless of sex – will be the main factor of employment. It will be interesting to see the impact of this new Government family friendly scheme upon businesses. I will keep you all informed!”

Consensus HR advises businesses to seek professional HR advice and support in these circumstances. This ensures that the employer’s actions do not contravene of the law in general and the Equality Act 2010 in particular.

The BBC published an excellent article on the new Shared Parental Leave rules this week. Read it here. If you would like more information of have any specific queries, contact Matthew at Consensus HR via Matthew@consensushr.com or call 01462 621 423.

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